The annual Washington Monument lighting, with fireworks overhead. Image via Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

The iconic holiday lighting of the George Washington Monument is back.

For the 46th straight year, thousands will descend on the epicenter of Mount Vernon for a highly anticipated fireworks display, light show and the lighting of 16,000 holiday lights to officially bring in the holiday season. An array of food vendors and holiday activities will also be present for the Downtown Partnership‘s annual celebration, which runs from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Perhaps only fitting in a city that thrives on other-ness, the light-covered monument is Baltimore’s quirky alternative to a Christmas tree. Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer initiated the celebration in 1972, according to The Baltimore Sun.

What began as a quiet gathering of neighbors more than four decades ago has grown steadily over the years to become one of the Baltimore region’s favorite holiday events. The event is now produced by Downtown Partnership of Baltimore with support from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts and the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks.

This year, an adjacent holiday village will offer food vendors, a beer garden once again for adults and a special “kids corner” in the park, with activities for children and photos with Santa. Musical acts — historically made up of choirs and choral groups from local schools and organizations — will include Baltimore Rock Opera Society, known for its creative, imaginative and raucous rock opera performances.

BROS plans to perform songs from its most recent show, “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus,” “in front of a bunch of people who probably don’t know who we are!” the group wrote in a Facebook event for the performance. “We’re going to start Baltimore’s holiday season off right, by ROCKING OUT LIKE A BUNCH OF WEIRDOS!”

Once again, the monument will be lit with more than 16,000 LED lights. Each strand uses only 12 watts of electricity, far less than the amount of power previously used by incandescent bulbs.

Because of road closures and the fireworks safety zone, the public is encouraged to enter Mt. Vernon’s West Park from Cathedral Street, rather than from the Charles Street area closest to the Monument itself. After 7 p.m., the only way to enter the event is on Cathedral Street.

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Rachel Bone

Rachel Bone is a regular contributor to the Baltimore Fishbowl.